Monday, September 22, 2008

You Just Bought That Hog?

My husband and I decided last month that we really wanted to buy a hog from the county fair to support one of the local 4-H kids. On a bright Saturday morning we left for the Apache County fair on a whim.

Half an hour drive from our house brought us to the lovely little town of St. Johns, Arizona. The landscape is high desert, and most residents are involved in agriculture or ranching.

Dear Husband was disappointed by the fair. Located right next to the small St. Johns airport, the fairgrounds included a tiny carnival setup, a short length of vendors and food booths, a commercial building, fair exhibit building, and a couple barns for livestock. For me, this is pretty close to the county fair I grew up with in New Mexico. If you were a lucky student from the area, you got your project of whatever type – clothing or baking or painting or growing vegetables or raising livestock – entered into the fair at Cliff, New Mexico, for all of Grant County to judge. It was a well-attended event each year and considered an honor to win the blue ribbon.

Dear Husband used to raise dairy goats when he was a young lad. His goats, apparently, were the first place winners in every competition and highly sought after by goat buyers of southern California, where the county fairs were much bigger.
So we both had our memories of the annual county fair – each very different.

We registered as bidders at the livestock auction and received our hand-printed number on an index card. While we waited for the auction to begin we walked around the fairgrounds, looking at exhibits and vendor booths, and baking under the sun in our cowboy hats, jeans, and boots.

As the livestock auction started, we took a seat in the bleachers around the arena, me on the left and Dear Husband to my right. The order was determined by the animal’s place, starting with the Grand Champions of each breed and ending with the animals which didn’t place at all. Dear Husband and I decided on our maximum bid amount and agreed that we would wait until the end to buy. After all, we just wanted some ham and pork chops and bacon and sausage – our hog didn’t need to be a grand prize winner.

The Grand Champions were auctioned off and next up was the Grand Reserve Champions – just a step below the big winners. The Reserve Champion hog came out into the arena led by a young man wearing jeans and shirt and tie, typical attire for a 4-H kid.

The bidding started out weak and out of the corner of my eye I noticed Dear Husband take our bidder card out of his shirt pocket, not thinking about it too much.

The auction spotter did his job efficiently, going back and forth and pointing out bidders to the auctioneer. Before I even realized the bidding was over, the spotter pointed directly at me and Dear Husband and said “Sold!”

I turned to look at my husband and asked him with a tone of disbelief, “You just bought that hog?”

Everyone seated around us started laughing. How had I not kept up with what was going on?

We could have paid less for our hog, most assuredly. But Dear Husband was determined to give the kid a fair price for the Reserve Champion animal he’d raised for months and honestly, what we paid probably didn’t even cover the feed.

While we wait for our hog to be butchered, I’m reminding myself that next year, I’m going to be in charge of the bidding card and pay much closer attention to what’s going on.

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